Saturday, July 29, 2006

2 down 51 to go

i have just returned from hiking grays peak 4,349.5 meters (14, 270 feet) and torreys peak 4,348.6 meters (14,267 feet) with my friends scott, ben and chris. it was a 13.25 km (8.25 miles) hike with 1097 m (3600 feet) of elevation gain. it took us 6 hours and 15 minutes (including lunch on the summit of torreys). my calves are a bit sore and my trapezius muscles hurt even more. i think i need a new pack.

i have many pictures that i will soon post with a much more in depth description of our adventures.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I want my baby back

Ah... the face of a happy kid. Yesterday he got his baby back. Sadly, the baby (Franky Wayne Wayne, who is generally not allowed to wear clothing) was inadvertantly abandoned at Shannon's parents house in June, and they were finally reunited yesterday. Thankfully, the baby is not a crucial member of the bedtime experience, although we have had to address where is my baby? and why isn't my baby here? over the last few weeks on a regular basis: "we left him at Sean and Rosemary's, Bub... he's being sent back right now... he's in the mail, sweetie... we'll have him back soon."

A stuffed dog named Jake (yes, Jake) was filling in for the baby as "other toy" given clearance to sleep on the bed. Puddles the duck is and always will be the most important stuffed friend - that's why there are three of them. Aside to new parents everywhere: if (when, actually) you see your child gravitating towards a particular soft object during naptime more than all other soft objects, try to acquire at least 2 more identical soft objects. This way, you can misplace one, wash one, and still have one ready for naptime. Do it quickly, lest they become addicted to the smell/essence/aura of the first one. (Did I just use the word "lest"?) I digress.

So last night at bedtime when I reminded Kai that we had the baby back, he insisted (insisted!) that Jake-the-stuffed-dog be taken away, and that I be the one to do the dirty deed of removing said dog. Simple conservation of bed-space, I suppose: Article 4, Section 9: "With the exception of a pillow, any necessary bedding and the human child, there must be no more than two and no less than two objects taking up space on the mattress at any time during which sleep is to occur." We don't make up these rules, but we must adhere to them.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Outdoor bliss

I really love our little townhouse. Sure, it feels a little too 70s-inspired at times, but on the whole, it is a good size and it has some great features. My issue? The outside has always been lacking. Until now... Thanks to some inspiration at my mom-in-law's place last month and this past week's garage sale outing, I found a cute little wall hanging that adds some flair to a rather bland front door wall, and some fabulous glazed planters. Add some colourful flowers, a plant stand and two benches from a couple months ago's garage sale adventure and the front of our place is no longer the bland entrance that it has been for the last year.

One last thing - happy birthday, Shannon! With a great new house and all the responsibilities that go with it, you're defintely another year wiser. But I think it's fair to say that you still don't look a day over 25! (Just go with it... it'll be useful in your 40s.) I hope you have a wonderful day my friend!

The birthday girl

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Inconvenient Reality

On Monday evening I went to see An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary on Global Warming/Climate Change. Have you heard of it? I hadn't until last week, at least not in the active or conscious part of my brain.

For those of you in Canada, you may be unaware of the movie in part because it isn't getting much press according to a commentary I read in The Toronto Star. It is definitely directed towards a U.S. audience, which makes sense considering the source. I checked, however, and it is being shown in Canada, at least in the GTA.

As a scientist, and an atmospheric scientist no less, I felt I had a responsibility to see the movie to determine whether or not I should recommend that others see it as well. (Specifically those who don't call themselves scientists) The verdict is pretty simple, though not entirely predictable. The quick answer is YES. You should go.

The longer, more involved answer:

For those of you who don’t know, which included myself until last night, Gore has been a student of global warming for about 20 years now. (Note: the more scientifically-acceptable term is actually climate change as not all locations are predicted to experience increases in temperature. According to models, some places may become significantly cooler.)

When I first learned that Gore had decided to star in a documentary about climate change, I immediately thought “that’s interesting… I guess he’s decided to do something positive with his post-political career.” I figured that his take on the subject had about a 50/50 chance of being an accurate portrayal of the current scientific understanding, and a 50/50 chance of being the rantings of a bitter ex-Presidential hopeful (no comment about Florida and hanging chads.) It turns out I was rather uninformed. Climate change has actually been a passion of his for much longer than his short stint as Vice President and Presidential hopeful, and he’s very much on top of the scientific information. It turns out that he has been touring the world giving a PowerPoint “slide show” on the subject. He estimates he's given the presentation more than a thousand times.

The documentary is essentially footage from some of the slide show presentations intercut with diary-like moments showing Gore’s personal journey to becoming a student of climate change research. The slide show portions, although delving into the scientific aspects of climate change, maintain an acceptable degree of laymen’s terminology and are very appropriate for a general audience. They are also both the most interesting and most informative aspects of the film. The little autobiographical snippits, although touching at times, are a little distracting. All told, however, they are not sufficiently annoying to negate the importance of everyone seeing the rest of the film.

As for the science, there is no doubt that Gore presents outcomes that have been modeled and are definitely plausible. There are some simplifications and generalizations, but the ideas behind them are reasonable. More importanly, it's not all doom and gloom. There ARE things that we can do about this. To start, we need to be informed. As citizens, commuters, consumers and parents, we have a responsibility to make wise choices. Our governments aren't forcing us to act responsibly, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't.

See the movie. Or if you prefer, read the book. Get informed. Your great-grandchildren will thank you for it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Forgotten photos

As I was copying some photos from my camera to my laptop yesterday, I realized that I had forgotten about some photos I'd taken during our trip home from Ontario (hmm... referring to Boulder as home. Interesting.) We did the entire trip in only 37 hours, but we did manage to stop at one playground for Kai (not including the indoor slide in the Burger King in Nowheresville, Kansas). Anyhow, I honestly can't remember where we were at the time, but in our little CAA TripTik (those things are fabulous), I found a city map for a small city we were passing through that had a big park marked off. On the chance that this "big park" contained a playground, we exited the interstate and set off in the direction of the park. Thankfully, the 10 minute drive away from the interstate was worth it, and we found this place, which I just have to revel about.

And that was only half of it. There are actually two playgrounds, (really!) side by side: one for older kids, and one for younger ones. Of course, Kai doesn't allow himself to be confined by his age, and was just as happy playing on the larger one as he was the smaller.

One of the coolest aspects of the place, besides it's immense size: three 8-foot climbing walls that Kai could scale completely on his own. (Of course Keith was there to spot him, but he wasn't allowed to touch Kai.)

Oh, and then there's the fact that they love parents, grandparents and babysitters at this park so much that they provide us with these awesome swinging park benches, alternated with regular benches, to a total of about 20 of them surrounding the playgrounds.

If only I wanted to live in that little city... which I don't. I'll just have to be happy with the rock park, the white park and the dinosaur park - the three playgrounds that are within easy walking/biking distance of our place.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dot com, aka today's reason to smile

I was just reading through some of our old posts, and I rememberd something that I wanted to add to one. When Keith posted a few weeks ago about our first strawberry picking excursion in Barrie, he forgot to mention the funniest thing that Kai said while we were there (maybe you won't find it so funny, but we did.)

Scene - Kai is standing in the middle of the berry patch, shoving berries unapologetically into his mouth. Becky, Keith, and Becky's parents are all busy either picking berries or snapping photos. Between bites, Kai looks around and says:

Kai: Hey mom-dad (we're often referred to simultaneously) this is strawberries-dot-com.

If he were a little older, the Canadian in him would have added an "eh?" to the end.

I don't know where he's picked it up, but for some reason he thinks that "dot com" is a way to emphasize something, akin to adding words like "city" or "heaven".

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Happy things

I just finished making cookies for my life group for tomorrow night (surprise guys - that's what you're getting) and I had to share my delight in the new kitchen tool that Keith brought home from work last night. Odd-size measuring spoons! Now I know you're probably thinking: why would someone be so excited about having a 2 tsp, 1 1/2 tbsp and 2 tbsp measurement device? Well, I admit it. I, too, scoffed when I first learned of their existence, but I also scoffed at the cookie scooper ("what's wrong with two spoons?" HAH!) until the first time I used one. And then there was the first time I used a METAL cookie scooper, but that's an entirely different story. Well, I'm a scoffer no longer. The odd-size measuring spoons are great! Need 2 tsps of vanilla? No problem. Gone is the trying not to spill over the edge of a teeny tiny flattened out 1 tsp spoon, only to have to repeat the action without spilling again. With one swift motion, 2 tsps can be added simultaneously. Need 1 1/2 tablespoons of something? That used to require 1 tbsp, 1 tsp and 1/2 tsp. Not anymore! Now it's one single scoop! I might just have to suggest to Keith that the odd-size measuring cup set would make a fine gift someday.

Aside to Shannon: you may just be the only person who gets truly excited about this. Or perhaps you're scoffing, too? I'm curious.

Speaking of good things from the very nice kitchen store, Keith also brought home our very own set of cornflower blue nesting melamine mixing bowls. [/Monica voice on] I know! [/Monica voice off] Very exciting as well! Handy little pour spout, rubber grip bottom... wait. [/Mr. Peterman voice on] Essential equipment for cooking and baking, our lightweight melamine bowls are an asset in any kitchen. Each has a nonslip rubber ring on its base to help hold the bowl securely in place. A handle and contoured lip allow you to neatly pour batter into a baking pan or onto a griddle. And because the bowls won't react with acidic foods, they're ideal for preparing marinades. [/Mr. Peterman voice off] I think we had pancakes for dinner tonight simply so that we could actually put one to use. The pancakes were quite yummy with a fruit salad topping and a light dusting of icing sugar from our W-S icing sugar shaker, and of course the bowl didn't disappoint either. (Uh oh. I'm afraid I'm becoming a food snob.)

One last happy thing. Keith and I have been talking about getting either and ice cream maker (his idea) or a bread maker (my idea) from his work for a couple months. No longer necessary. Luck was on my side this past Saturday (back in CO, where I didn't have to worry about fitting stuff into a very packed Chevrolet Uplander) as I found BOTH an ice cream maker and a bread maker. The bread maker is a little on the vintage side, and the first attempt fell a little short (literally), with a half-loaf resulting from realizing that we don't normally own active dry yeast AFTER all the other ingredients were already added. Thus, they began forming a rather glue-like paste at the bottom of the little bread-forming pan long before the ... whirr (pause) whirr (pause) whirr ... of the paddle was allowed to begin. BUT! the ice cream maker, still in original packaging and reportedly used only once (ever - ?!), has already been used to successfully create a rather delicious peanut butter cup ice cream with the assistance of a container of Trader Joe's peanut butter cups that were purchased in a west end St. Louis suburb store - the closest one to CO on our route home. Getting there took a little bit of preplanning, but it was well worth the effort. Anyhow, thank goodness for willpower: the ice cream is almost entirely still in the freezer after more than two full days. But really - when you see what goes in, it is much easier to only want a little at a time.

So now we just need to decide between the Kitchen Aid pasta maker attachment and the 11-quart Cuisinart food processor. Decisions, decisions.

Or maybe I'll just go garage saling (yes, that is an accepted internet word) again.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Memories of the whirlwind

We are back at home. Got here last night around 8 pm local time. Unloaded the van, plugged in the adapter and phone, called the parents, put the kid to bed, picked up the dog, unpacked a few items, went to bed in our own beds. It was nice...

Our trip ended with a very LONG car ride that we forced into two days, with a stop halfway in Columbia, Missouri. Keith and I both got two new states during the trip - Missouri and Kansas, and Kai picked up three - MO, KS and Ohio. The kid is 3, and already he's been in 10 states! The drive was pretty uneventful, but we got to watch a very cool storm to the south of us as we left Kansas and travelled across eastern CO. Thankfully, the only rain we got was as we drove down the hill of CO 36 coming into Boulder... and it's been raining ever since. I can't complain. We get somewhere between 5 and 10 days per year of "all-day-rain", and we've been having drought-like conditions for the last month(s?), so it's good for our reservoirs. Bad for flooding, but that's another story.

A snippit of conversation from the trip:

Keith and Me: blah blah blah Toronto blah blah blah

Kai: I was born in Toronto, Canada.

Keith and Me: that's right, Kai.

Me: And do you know what that makes you, Kai? You were born in Canada, so you are a ...


Me: uh... well, sure... you could be... but sadly that's not um... innate. you kind of have to work on that one.

So Canada was good to us. We haven't actually counted the number of people (friends, family, and old colleagues) that we saw, but it was pretty high. A little overwhelming at times, but we still didn't get to see everyone that we would have liked to have seen. It was nice to be in Canada for Canada Day, and it was fun seeing Kai experience a bunch of new things. Some highlights, in pictoral form:

Kai got to sit inside Bob Frank's Massey Ferguson tractor, which happened to be attached to a John Deere Round Baler. VERY exciting! (Kai's excited face is a little on the "mildly intrigued" side. We know that he's really excited about something when his mouth is a little pursed and he becomes super-observant. It doesn't really scream excitement, but it's there.)

Then he got to ride a bunch of rides at Centreville, on Centre Island in Toronto, including the old fashioned fire trucks, a few boat rides (including a swan boat), and his very first roller coaster! He did say afterwards that the roller coaster was a little too fast... Sometimes I'm not so sure he's my kid.

On our last full day in Canada, we went to the Greenview Aviaries near Blenheim, which is actually a pretty big zoo with a big playground attached to it. My favourite was the ostriches. Those things are WEIRD.

It was a good vacation. Lots of catching up, lots of relaxing, lots of activities, and lots of berry picking/eating (mmmmmm... strawberries...) :

I guess I should actually unpack our belongings now... but that can wait until tomorrow. (Ah... laundry.)